September 6, 2023

U of A team revamps Alberta’s prenatal hepatitis C screening program

230906-hcv-prenatal-screening-main-16x9-3000px.jpgA University of Alberta team has revamped Alberta’s prenatal hepatitis C screening program based on their research, uncovering more new cases of the bloodborne viral infection and streamlining the path to care for mothers and babies.

The researchers tested a new one-step blood screening tool, introduced a universal screening program and improved followup to ensure pregnant patients are connected with specialists, resulting in 59 per cent more cases of hepatitis C being identified for treatment.

Previously, only pregnant women who self-declared risk factors such as intravenous drug use or sex work were tested for hepatitis C using a two-step blood test. About 12 per cent of 50,000 newly pregnant Albertans were tested during their pregnancy under the risk disclosure system. Ninety-nine per cent are now being screened through the new universal program, with accurate results available within four days instead of 39 thanks to the new one-sample test and direct followup to connect patients with specialists.

Thirty-four cases of maternal hepatitis C were identified in the final year of the old program, while 54 cases were diagnosed in the pilot year for the improvements.

“People who are affected by hepatitis C are often marginalized populations and so it was really hard for them to get the initial screening done, then get the doctor’s appointment and phlebotomy for that second followup, and then also go see their doctor for those results,” explains Carmen Charlton, associate professor in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology.

Read the full story on Folio